Monday, July 31, 2006

Consumer solar ?

Currys have started selling solar panels in retain outlets :

Maybe the start of a solar revolution ? We desparately need the price of solar to come down; it's just not affordable for anyone but the very rich at the moment; from a financial point of view it's crazy installing solar panels; you're looking at £10,000 to install enough to knock say £200 per year off your electricity bill. The panels are rated to last about 30 years.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Power meter

I bought a power meter the other day from Doctor Energy - their customer communications could do with some work but it was only a tenner and turned up within about 2 weeks. It measures current, voltage and power factor, and from that derives total power consumption and cost. So the oxygen generator for Jamie uses about 400 W, the steriliser costs about 1p/day and the phone charger doesn't even register. I'll hook it up to a few different things to see what they use - I'm interested to see what the video and cable box consume when they are on standby; also my intenet gear is on all the time so must gobble up a fair amount over time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Solar anyone ?

Popped out on my bike for half an hour - two things struck me. Firstly, how nice and sunny it was. Secondly, on all of the thousands of new houses around here that heve been put up recently, there was not one with any kind of solar collector on - whether for hot water or photovoltaics. Seeing as the cost for the hot water collectors is only a grand or so it's amazing they don't bother putting them on from new - I'd have thought it was a good selling point that the heating bills will be about half what they would otherwise be.

And yes, I know ultimately the builders don't make that saving so they don't give a damn, but really, it's irresponsible.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Peak Oil

Read more here

Water usage

Meat production uses an astonishing amount of water. Example: to produce a kilo of beef takes about 50,000 litres of water. Compare that with rice, which takes about 1000 litres, or chicken a mere 4,500 litres. As people are getting wealthier, they are eating more beef,so water demands are going up.

Apparently in the USA, the averge water usage per head is 500litres - in the UK it's 200 and in places like Gambia it's less than 10.

Must get the leak fixed in the header tank...


Counter Currents
The rather shocking Vegetarian Now!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Travel by train

I recently discovered a fantastic site for anyone who wants to travel abroad but doesn't want to fly. The site is called "The man in seat 61" and gives vast amounts of info on how to travel from the UK to places all across Europe and the rest of the world by train and ship. There are lots or reasons to avoid flying: -

  • It creates a lot of pollution.
  • Some people are afraid of flying (although it is very safe).
  • Some people feel the journey is as important as the destination and an adventure in it's own right.
  • Lining up at the baggage check in followed by hours sitting in an airport then spending hours in a plane being served vile food while trying to avoid DVT and having the seat in front slowly crush your kneecaps only to have to make your way through passport control and then finding your luggage took a much more luxurious trip than you to a different continent IS NOT FUN.
I know many of the people likely to visit this blog would probably use the train where possible anyway. For those who wouldn't, give it a go. If you have to fly and are wracked with guilt over the pollution created to to get you where you were going you could try carbon offsetting. Some companies will plant and maintain trees for you. They will even calculate how many trees are required to absorb the carbon created by your journey (or household utilities). Some companies will offset carbon use through a range of different project. All they ask in return is that you give them your money.

Two such companies are: -

The CarbonNeutral Company
(They take part in various carbon reduction schemes and also sell a range of environmentally friendly gifts and gadgets.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Green electricity

About 2 years ago I signed up with Juice. Juice is an electricity tarrif from npower. It costs their same as their standard tarrif but is produced from 100% renewable sources (mostly offshore wind farms like North Hoyle). It is also run in partnership with Greenpeace who ensure that the 100% renewable agreement is adhered to. They also give £10 a year for every Juice customer to renewable energy research projects.

I personally feel that the best future for electricity generation is decentralised generation by homes, offices, etc across the country. However it will take a while to happen and for people to save up for roof mounted solar panels and wind turbines. In the meanwhile signing up to one of the many green electricity providers is a good alternative.


We bought a washing machine recently - we ended up with a Bosch one, mainly because it used 11 litres less water per wash than the hotpoint one. It also uses less electricity - and seems to wash a bit better than our old hotpoint as well. Sharon spent quite some time crawling round the floor in the showroom trying to read the efficiency data on each model; why don't they stick that data on the top ?!

It's getting good usage now - Jamie gets through quite a lot of nappies, and even factoring the cost of the washing machine into account, we should break even inside 2 years now that we have reusable nappies.

Portable Solar

I recently bought a sunlinq set of solar panels with the idea of recharging various gadgets (GPS, MP3 player, phone, AA batteries, etc) when I was away from home and had no access to mains. The solar panels are light, flexible, waterproof and very durable they also fold down to the size of a thin book. The come with a range of of adapters including clips and a female car lighter socket which when combined with a 12v dc to 5v usb adapter can charge virtually any gadget you care to name. Unfortunately it is pretty expensive but comes in a range of sizes and costs (I went for the 12 watt one)

More info can be found here and a UK supplier can be found here.

Here are some pics: -

More Books

This is a book with lots of simple tips for reducing your impact on the environment while often saving money.

Saving The Planet Without Costing The Earth

For those who are a little more hardcore in their environmentalism this book explains how to build a house that from building materials to energy generation and water collection and re-use will have virtually no impact on the Earth at all!

Earthship: How To Build Your Own

More info here

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Passive solar design

A book about keeping your house at a sensible temperature regardless of the weather:

The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling

House cooling

Nick asked,"What is the most acceptable way of cooling down a house?"

I think the most acceptable way is to stop it getting hot in the first place! My shed now has foil-backed bubble wrap inside the roof and on the windows, which reflects heat back out - between the foil and the roof the temperature was about 46 degrees; in the shed it was a mere 30 degrees while the outside temperature was 27 degrees. In our baby's room I've put the same stuff on the windows (kitchen foil would do), as well as a blackout blind, plus we keep all the curtains shut on the side of the house that gets the sun. Oh, and open windows on both sides of the house to get a breeze through - even if there's no wind you should get a bit of movement through convection.

After that, paint the roof white (ideally silver), grow tall trees on the north and west sides, face the house south and have minimal size windows on the west side, use shutters and have an overhang over all the windows to reduce the heat coming in in the middle of the day. Um, not too practical for a rented house though :-)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Aircon ?

Aircon isn't particularly environmentally friendly, but running it in reverse to do heating can be, as you are moving thermal energy from outside to inside rather than converting it directly from the electricity supply. Finally someone has released a device that works both ways, and doesn't have a stupid price tag.

Tony pointed out that if you have a wind turbine, this would be a completely free way to heat your house, particularly at night when it is often a) cold, b) windy c) you don't have anything much using electricity .


Windsave are doing mini wind turbines to fit on your roof for about £1500 - they generate 1Kw in a stiff breeze and thanks to some new planning laws are fairly simple to get approval for. When we get our big house in the country (ie, about 30years after I'm dead at current progress) maybe we'll get a couple.